Kentucky bill would set highway protest rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/17/2017

An effort underway in the Kentucky Legislature concerns protests that spill onto roadways.

The issue has been prevalent at statehouses around the country over the past couple of years. Some legislators have advocated for rules to be put into place to address activities that shut down major highways.

To date, states including South Dakota and Tennessee have enacted rules to deter highway protests through stiff fines and punishments. Governors in Arkansas and Minnesota vetoed similar efforts in the past year.

Advocates say efforts to keep protests off busy roadways are a common-sense way to help ensure public safety. Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, view efforts to punish protesters as violations of the First Amendment.

Kentucky state Rep. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, wants the issue addressed through legislation in the coming months. He has filed for consideration during the 2018 regular session a proposal that would protect drivers who unintentionally strike pedestrians in certain situations.

Specifically, motorists and truck drivers would not be held criminally or civilly liable for causing injury or death to a person obstructing traffic on a public street, road or highway during a protest where a permit was not granted.

Similar efforts were debated in recent months in states that include Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Morgan’s proposal also would forbid a person from concealing their identity within 500 feet of a protest site. Protesters wearing protective gear, including shields and armor, would also be off limits. In addition, carrying a deadly weapon would be prohibited.

The effort would also prohibit people from interfering with police duties during a protest.

Violators would face up to one year behind bars and a $500 fine.

The draft legislation awaits denotation as a bill. The Kentucky regular session begins Jan. 2.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Kentucky, click here.



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